Biosimilar Etanercept – Patient Information Leaflet

Patient Leaflets Team

  • Reference Number: HEY-892/2017
  • Departments: Pharmacy

This leaflet offers more information about your medicines for your medical conditions and our plans to switch your treatment over from Enbrel to Benepali. If you have any further questions or concerns after reading this leaflet, please speak to your doctor or the nurses at the Rheumatology or Dermatology Departments.

Why am I receiving this leaflet?

You may be aware that the patent for Enbrel has expired and several biosimilars have been approved and are available to patients. The biosimilar drug for etanercept Enbrel used at this hospital is marketed under the trade name Benepali. Since Benepali offers cost savings and enables us to deliver care more effectively, we aim to gradually switch all patients currently using Enbrel over to Benepali.

What does this mean for me?

As Benepali and Enbrel contain the same active product (etanercept), treatment for your medical condition remains unchanged. You will receive Benepali from your next delivery date. No additional monitoring is need.

What are biological medicines (biologics)?

Biologics are drugs that mimic or block natural chemicals in your body. They are manufactured by the pharmaceutical industry in a complex process, which involves producing the molecule and then purifying and cleaning it. Etanercept works by stopping the naturally occurring chemical, called TNF (tumour necrosis factor), from binding to cells that cause inflammation.

Biologics are extensively used in the treatment of inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, axial spondyloarthropathy, psoriatic arthritis, psoriasis, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

What is a biosimilar?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has defined a biosimilar as a drug that is similar in terms of quality, safety and effectiveness to the original licensed product. This means that biosimilars (such as Benepali) are allowed to have small structural differences from the original licensed product (Enbrel) but this must not alter how well the drug works, how safe it is, or how the drug reacts with the body’s immune system.

The process for manufacturing Enbrel, the original etanercept, has itself altered several times since it was first introduced resulting in a cleaner drug with fewer side effects. Benepali has been assessed against the last versions of Enbrel.

Biosimilars are regulated in a similar way to the original licensed product. The European Medicines Agency has approved the use of Benepali as it has been shown to be as safe and as effective as Enbrel.

Do biosimilars work as well?

There have been a number of research studies comparing how well biosimilars work and their safety. There appear to be no differences between the original biologics and the new biosimilars. Over the years, experience with biosimilars of other drugs has been acquired in this hospital and we have no new issues reported. We expect patients switching to a biosimilar to have the same response as if they had stayed on the original biologic. Unfortunately, all drugs may stop being effective at some point in time, but this is no more likely to happen with Benepali than it is with Enbrel.

Are biosimilars safe?

Biosimilars have a similar safety profile to the original biologics. The regulator of new drugs, the European Medicines Agency, has declared biosimilar drugs safe and interchangeable with the original drugs. National Institute for Clinical Excellence and Care (NICE) has also supported this position.

What happens if I change to a biosimilar but I have side effects?

Please be assured that we would not be offering this alternative medicine unless we were completely confident that it was just as safe and effective as your current medication. When switching to a biosimilar it is not expected that there will be any issues. However if you do develop a side effect you will be informed of the process which is in place to manage any complications and dealt with promptly. Information on side effects for etanercept can be found in patient information leaflet that is supplied with both Enbrel and Benepali).

Contact us

If you have any further questions, please contact the:

  • Rheumatology Nursing Team Advice Line: (01482) 608779; Mon 11am – 3pm, Tue 8am – 10am, Wed 1pm – 4pm and Fri 9am – 11am

  • Dermatology Nursing Team: (01482) 622484/624093

Additional services and information

  • NHS Choices: NHS Choices provides online information and guidance on all aspects of health and healthcare, to help you make decisions about your health.
  • Web:
  • NHS 111: You can call 111 when you need medical help fast but it’s not a 999 emergency. NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Calls are free from landlines and mobile phones

This leaflet was produced by the Pharmacy Department, Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and will be reviewed in June 2020.

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